“Fintster, glitshik” sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Welcome to the website/blog “The Yiddish Song of the Week” presented by the An-sky Jewish Folklore Research Project (AJFRP). This initiative is part of a larger effort by the AJFRP to revitalize traditional Yiddish folksinging performance and research on the subject. To that end, this website will emphasize field recordings of traditional Yiddish folksingers from around the world contributed by folklorists, ethnomusicologists, musicians, singers and collectors.

Each Yiddish song will be presented with Yiddish words and translation, along with commentary from the contributor. Since the website is a blog, we hope that each song contribution will elicit comments from others on the song itself, or on the singing style of the singer. Perhaps others will contribute a variant of the song from their recordings, etc.

A dank,
Itzik Gottesman
Director, An-sky Jewish Folklore Research Project

THE SINGER LIFSHE SCHAECHTER-WIDMAN (LSW)

Lifshe Schaechter Widman was born in Zvinyetchke, Bukovina in 1893. The town is on the Dneister river. Across the river was Galicia. When she was born, Zvinyetchke was part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire. Today the town is in the Ukraine. By an early age she had established her reputation as singer and was often asked by the women, both younger, unmarried and older married women to sing for them. Most of the songs in her repertoire are from the first 14 years of her life. In 1907 she left on her own for America, lived in New York, and returned to Bukovina just in time for the First World War in 1914. She married Benyumin Schaechter in Vienna and settled in Chernovitz, the capital of Bukovina. She had two children Beyle (born in 1920 in Vienna ) and Mordkhe (born in 1927 in Chernovitz). Beyle became a Yiddish poet and songwriter and settled in the Bronx (Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman – my mother). Mordkhe Schaechter became a noted Yiddish linguist in NY. Lifshe survived the war in Chernovitz and arrived in the US in 1951. She died in 1973.

In 1954, Leybl Kahn, a folklore collector, recorded Lifshe in her home in the Bronx. Most of the recordings of LSW for this project will be from those sessions which number about 100. In the early 1970s, Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett did extensive interviews and recordings with Lifshe and much of the contextual and biographical information relating to the songs are from those recordings. I produced a cassette of LSW’s songs from the Kahn recordings entitled Az du furst avek on the label Global Village Music in 1986. A booklet with words and translations accompanied the recording.

COMMENTS ON LSW’S SINGING STYLE AND THE SONG
FINTSTER, GLITSHIK

There is a lot to say about the song itself and how the singer performs it. LSW sings it slowly, emotionally, and is in no rush to finish. The sound “oy,” though often mocked by 2nd and 3rd generation Jews, is crucial in her singing (as it is for klezmer-music and Ashkenazic cantorial performance) and conveys her sadness and intimacy. In Zvinyetchke she sang with hopeful, youthful small groups of teenage girls on Sabbath walks, and with older bitter women on Saturday nights as they plucked chickens or made jam together. The play, work and song were communally performed and felt. In other words, when I listen to LSW sing, I feel her expressing that female communal vulnerability and fragility to the audience – “Be sad with me/us; feel my/our pain and joy.”

On the one hand, she sings in an older style of East European women’s singing style, yet on the other hand, it can’t be denied that she was a product of her time – 1890s Austria-Hungary/Galicia – a time of sentimental art and literature (sentimental in the good sense). Fintster, glitshik follows a ballad form. The first two verses set the dramatic context of a women who must give up her newborn and then a spoken monologue follows. (In older ballads, it would be a dialogue that follows). I don’t think the song is older than the 1850s or 1860s but there is no way to date folksongs; we can only guess by the number of variants that had been collected.

A close version of the song appears in Yidisher folklor edited by I. L. Cahan, 1938, a YIVO publication. The song appears on p. 39, collected in Podbrodz, near Vilna. The fifth and last verse mentions the father who laughs when he finds out her situation. The melody to that version is similar to LSW’s and is published in the back of the book.

In Yidishe Folkslider in Rusland, edited by Saul Ginsburg and Peysekh Marek, St. Petersburg 1901 (reprint Israel 1991) there is another, longer version on page 189, collected in the Poltava region. Two more variants are mentioned in the Cahan 1938 work which I cannot obtain yet.

S‘iz fintster, glitshik, shpeyt bay der nakht.
S‘iz a pakhed af der gas aroystsugeyn.
Es dreyt zikh a fraylin shpeyt bay der nakht.
Ir harts tsegeyt dekh far geveyn.

It‘s dark, slippery, late at night.
It‘s a fright to go out on the street.
A young woman wanders late at night,
Her heart is breaking from her crying.

Zi zeyt az keyner zol zi nit hern.
Un zingt a lid gants fun zikh aleyn.
Mentshn, ven ir volt zikh fun dem lid dernern.
Volt ir gevist vos mit mir iz geshen.

She looks to make sure no one is hearing.
And sings a song to  herself.
People, if you could from this song be “nourished
Then you would find out what has happened to me.

Nayn khadoshim hob ikh dikh getrogn.
Mit groyse shmertsn hob ikh dikh gehat.
Ze mayn kind an umgliklekhe miter;
Derkh dir bin ikh (a) na-venad.

Nine months I was pregnant with you,
With great pains, I delivered you,
See my child, an unhappy mother
Because of you, I wander around.

Az gite mentshn veln dikh gefinen.
Rakhmunes veln zey hobn af dir.
Ze mayn kind, du zolst dikh erlikh firn.
Fil beser vet dir zayn fun mir.

When good people will find you,
They will take pity on you.
See my child, that you conduct yourself honestly.
You will be much better off than me.

Un az di vest elter vern
Vest onheybn di velt beser tsu farshteyn.
Vest veln kenen dayne futer-miter.
Farges mayn kind, bist elnt vi a shteyn.

And when you get older
And begin to understand the world better,
You will want to know your parents –
Forget my child, you are lonely as a stone.

ס‘איז פֿינצטער, גליטשיק, שפּעט בײַ דער נאַכט.
ס‘איז אַ פּחד אויף דער גאַס אַרויסצוגיין.
עס דרייט זיך אַ פֿרײַלין שפּעט בײַ דער נאַכט.
איר האַרץ צעגייט זיך פֿאַר געוויין.

זי זעט, אַז קיינער זאָל זי ניט הערן
און זינגט אַ ליד גאַנץ פֿון זיך אַליין.
מענטשן ווען איר זאָלט זיך פֿון דעם ליד דערנערן,
וואָלט איר געוווּסט, וואָס מיט מיר איז געשען.

נײַן חדשים האָבן איך דיך געטראָגן.
מיט גרויסע שמערצן האָב איך דיך געהאַט.
זע מײַן קינד אַן אומגליקלעכע מוטער;
דורך דיר בין איך נע־ונד.

אַז גוטע מענטשן וועלן דיך געפֿינען,
רחמנות וועלן זיי האָבן אויף דיר.
זע, מײַן קינד, דו זאָלסט זיך ערלעך פֿירן,
פֿיל בעסער וועט דיר זײַן פֿון מיר.

און אַז דו וועסט עלטער ווערן,
וועסן אָנהייבן די וועלט בעסער צו פֿאַרשטיין.
וועסט וועלן קענען דײַנע פֿאָטער־מוטער,
פֿאַרגעס מײַן קינד, ביסט עלנט ווי אַ שטיין

44 Responses to ““Fintster, glitshik” sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman”

  1. Yasher-koyekh! What a wonderful service you are providing with this new blog!

  2. BTW, there is a typo at the top of the page. “Fintster” (as it is below in the lyrics) instead of “finster.”

  3. Beautiful blog, heartbreaking song, amazing to hear. A sheynem dank!

  4. This is really gorgeous! Thanks so much, Itzik!!!

  5. Janet Leuchter Says:

    Sh’koyekh, Itsik–how moving to hear your bobe’s voice now as a gift to the world. The home page deserves a “shehekhiyanu.” Questions: who wrote the song’s notes above–you or BKG? Will each page be archived and for how long? Will the archive be searchable? Comment: I wonder how many songs of that period talked to children about what they would understand when they grew up–it’s shades of Oyfn Pripitshek.

  6. What a fabulous idea and so beautifully presented. This can and should become an invaluable resource for Yiddish singers and lovers of Yiddish song. Yasher koyekh un mazel tov!

  7. Thank you. That was a lovely song and a much-needed break from my work. I agree with your friends the blog is beautifully presented. Yasher koyekh un mazel tov from me too!

  8. Judy Barlas Says:

    A painfully beautiful song and an invaluable archive. I can’t wait for the next installment. And now I wish more than ever that my mother weren’t so stubborn about using the Internet! She’d love this.

    She’d cry… but she’d love it.

    Thank you to everyone who is making this happen.

  9. lamerkhav Says:

    זאָל זײַן מיט מזל

  10. Mazltov! This is a website and project whose time has come. so great that people all around the world finally have a chance to hear this heritage. By the way, the subject of the Advanced Yiddish Song Workshop this summer in Weimar (July 25 – Aug 2) happens to be unaccompanied Yiddish folksong repertoire and style, and Michael Alpert, Ethel Raim and Itzik Gottesman are the faculty. So for us, the timing of this website couldn’t have been better. Thanks so much, and looking forward to each new song each week! Best, Alan Bern (www.yiddishsummer.eu)

  11. Fantastic! I’ve just sent it on to a few of my students, and a few of my cousins, and… Am just reading Irene Nemirovsky’s “The Dogs and the Wolves” and the song resonates uncannily with it.

  12. dear itzik! what a wonderful homepage, what a brilliant work!
    thank you so much.

  13. Dear Itzik,

    thanks a lot. A wonderful song, not to mention your commentary work. Please continue!

    Grusn
    Aaron

  14. Wonderful site, with so much carefully presented information. And what a fabulous beginning – with this beautiful rendition of a song rarely heard.
    Thank you!

    Batya

  15. Sari Simon Says:

    Vas ist tzu mir sehr interessant iz dos a lied ver hat geshriben geven a hundert yahr tzurik, red fun a modernishe perspektiva was es iz tzu sein alein in der velt.

  16. itzik gottesman Says:

    Thanks everyone. Pete Rushefsky at Center for Traditional Music and Dance is the Blog-Meister and deserves much kudos for the appearance of the blog. We view this project as a longterm one. Even though only Lifshe’s songs may appear the first few weeks, we expect that over the course of the year, many other fieldrecordings of other singers will follow. We will soon post guidelines for submissions.

  17. Itzik kroyn:

    What? A Yiddish music site by a native-speaker AND a trained folklorist?
    Be still, my heart! a dank dir und khaver Rushevsky.

    zol zaan mit mazl

    Wolf Krakowski

  18. […] Yiddish Song of the Week Just another WordPress.com weblog « “Fintster, glitshik” sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman […]

  19. This is wonderful for our Yiddish class. Thank you so much. We are looking for playlets, songs, skits, etc.. to use as material for our class. We read transliterated Yiddish mostly. We are not professionals. Our instructor, a linguistics professor is in Europe and we desperately need material.

    thank you so much.

  20. Tayerer Itzik. Vunderlekh! a sheynem dank.

    Anya Quilitzsch

  21. vunderlekh. a dank far ayer bamiungen! a matone far der gantzer velt, befrat yidn.

  22. Miriam Holmes Says:

    Just discovered this via a link on Rokhl Kafrissen’s blog. It’s wonderful and I’ll and share it….although that could be a full time job!

    BTW , you mention a Yiddish actor, Turkow. His first name is Zygmunt – a minor typo.

  23. David Stern Says:

    Kol Hakavod for posting this songs. I live in Israel now and as a young boy growing up in Svalyava I knew Itzu Moskovits and his children.This was the first time i heard him singing. How can I get some more melodies from him?

    David Stern

    • itzik gottesman Says:

      Thanks. There are indeed more performances by Itzu Moskovits that we hope to post on the blog.

  24. […] For more on singer Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) 1893-1974 click here. […]

  25. […] 1973) who grew up in Zvinyace/Zvinyetchke, Bukovina (The part of Austria-Hungary), is given in the very first post of The Yiddish Song of the Week. This week’s song is also taken from the 1954 recordings of her done by Leybl Kahn in […]

  26. […] is the daughter of the singer, Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) whose performances have been posted on this blog a number of times. Whereas LSW‘s singing […]

  27. […] has two syllables) and I immediately identified it as the source of a song my grandmother Lifshe Schaechter-Widman [LSW] sang called „Di […]

  28. […] This week’s Yiddish Song of the Week is a performance of the opening verse of Mayn lomp vert farloshn (My Lamp is Being Extinguished), a very old death ballad, by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW). The recording was made as part of the Leybl Kahn recordings of LSW, done in New York City in 1954. Schaechter-Widman was born and raised in Zvinyetchke, Bukovina; for more information on the singer, see previous posts. […]

  29. […] know this song from my mother, Beyle Schaechter G0ttesman, who learned it from her mother, Lifshe Schaecther Widman, and the words as they are sung here are almost exactly the same (we sing „Ver vet lakhn, un […]

  30. […] remember, from a taped interview, that the singer Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) learned this song from a street singer/organ grinder in her home town of Zvinyetchke, Bukovina. […]

  31. […] Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s shorter version, recorded in 1954 in the Bronx by song collector Leybl Kahn, a ballad-story is […]

  32. […] apikorsim (“The Heretics”) was the first song that Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) sang for collector Leybl Kahn in NYC in 1954. He recorded approximately 100 songs sung by LSW over […]

  33. […] song is in Cahan, 1952, page 185, and has three verses, rather than two verses and one refrain, as Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (1894-1974) (LSW) sings […]

  34. […] I recorded my mother’s performance of “Nakhtishe lider” at home in the Bronx in the 1980s. The audio quality of the recording is unfortunately not stable (be careful when listening – the volume increases significantly at 0:27), but Schaechter-Gottesman’s singing here is a wonderful example of what I would call urban interwar Yiddish singing and contrasts powerfully with the older plaintive, communal shtetl-style of her mother Lifshe Schaechter-Widman. […]

  35. […] Daytshl”  (“The German Guy”) as sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman [LSW] (see previous posts for her biography) is linguistically the most complicated song yet […]

  36. […] week’s Yiddish Song of the Week, Rosh-yeshivenik, is sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, from Zvinyetchke, Bukovina. She was recorded by Leybl Kahn in 1954 in the […]

  37. […] immigrant’s dilemma. It clearly was an issue in the old country as well. This recording of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, (b. Zvinyetchke, Bukovina, 1893 – d. New York, 1973) was recorded by Leybl Kahn in the Bronx […]

  38. […] had a talent for composing a memorable lullaby, as in Rozhinkes mit mandlen and as we see here. LSW sings this powerfully with her slow, emotional […]

  39. […] Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) sang this version of a song about the pogrom which was adapted for other pogroms, or perhaps  was itself already an adaptation of an earlier pogrom song. In this post we note two other pogroms with versions of the song. […]

  40. […] Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) sang this version of a song about the pogrom which was adapted for other pogroms, or perhaps  was itself already an adaptation of an earlier pogrom song. In this post we note two other pogroms with versions of the song. […]

  41. […] the city and became street walkers. Any other interpretations of the first line of this song, which Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) says was created during the first world war, would be welcome. This recording of Lifshe was made by […]

  42. […] kayn tate-mame folgn (Whoever Does Not Listen to Their Parents) is a lyric love song performed by Lifshe Schaechter Widman (LSW) for this recording by Leybl Kahn, made in the Bronx in 1954. So far, I can find no other versions […]

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